Book Plunge: Saturday Morning Mind Control

What do I think of Phil Phillips’s book published by Thomas Nelson? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been doing some studying lately in the concept of Christian paranoia over how most every new invention that comes along is something that is going to destroy our children for the next generation. The problem is this happens so many times. It is my desire to find common themes and what can be done when new mediums come up. After all, we don’t want to just follow culture everywhere and jump on every bandwagon, but at the same time we want to be wise and discerning, including with entertainment content.

Phil Phillips writes from a perspective of a therapist in dealing with the issue of TV which he often calls The Box. Certainly, Phillips’s desire is noble and can be applauded. Watch what your children are watching and be aware of it. Try to understand what is going on. He doesn’t say to throw out TV altogether, but he does encourage a vested interest in what your children are doing.

This is something I wholeheartedly agree with. While my Dad and I watch TV together often, including shows like Smallville and the Flash, and we as a family watched Monk and House and other shows like that, but when it came to games, I have often been the lone gamer in my house. Parents. If you have children who are gamers, they would like to see you take an interest in that just as much as you take an interest in your children who play sports.

On p. 54, he does say one main reason that some kids don’t become aggressive in light of what is seen on TV is because of parents. This is the most important insight in the book. It deserves to be recognized by all. If you are raising your children well and teaching them good and evil and giving them a biblical worldview especially, they are far better equipped. I have played games all my life and I am not at all an aggressive person.

However, Phillips does indeed engage in paranoia and many of the rules seem arbitrary. For instance, does a show have more than three weapons on it? If this was followed, you could not watch The LionThe Witch, and the Wardrobe.

I also wondered throughout at times how you could explain the Bible in this position. The Bible has a lot of violence in it and yes, a lot of sexual content. We don’t grant the Bible an exception just because it’s the Bible. If we do that, we are engaging in double-standards.

Phillips does have a bibliography in the back, but the problem is many times in the book, he does not cite sources and does not tell where something is specifically found. Sometimes he will say something like “A boy said X.’ What boy is this? How can I speak to him?

He also sometimes gets his material wrong. For example, he says about Ninja Turtles and this when discussing the cartoon that Splinter was a rat and then became a humanoid rat, but fans of the show know that in the cartoon, Splinter was a human first. In the movie, he was a rat first. (82) He also says Smurfette was a male smurf who became female, but in reality, Smurfette had been created by Gargamel in the show. This is the danger of that if you get something basic wrong, why should I trust you on the others?

He is also vague on what is meant by aggression. It is never defined and sometimes it looks like it is always to be avoided. Sometimes aggression is a good thing. We need to be aggressive, but for Phillips, it looks like there is never a good time for aggression.

The same problem occurs with violence. Phillips is the kind of person who will have a problem with something like Looney Tunes and is convinced that too often children will believe everything on the box is real. Of course, this is where parents need to monitor and discuss, but eventually, children do grow up and realize these things aren’t real and just enjoy them as fantasy.

In looking at the Super Mario Brothers Super Show, which I know very well, he speaks about a three-headed snake that says “Stomp ’em, Tromp ’em, Crush ’em” and of characters being spoken of as belch brains and these are not the kinds of values we want our children to emulate. Good thing that it’s the VILLAINS who do this on the show. Would Phillips really want a show where villains show the behaviors we want to be emulated in society? (p.81)

He gets more bizarre about this show when he starts talking about occultism in cartoons and says that even Mario has a dance, which he connects dancing with the occult. You can do the Mario. You can think the Mario show is the dumbest show ever but you can look at the dance at the end easily and tell that Lou Albano is not leading children into occult practices with a dance.

He uses She-Ra as an example of how She-Ra even cries for an enemy because he was given life and wasted it. When he dies, no one would care. Honestly, this reads as if Phillips is condemning this when I find this admirable. We as Christians should all be sad for those who are given the gift of life and waste it. (120)

Phillips lists several shows he says have problematic and occult themes in them, many of which are just incredibly odd to see. My Favorite Martian should be avoided since it involves UFOs. G.I. Joe should be avoided because it’s too violent.  Other shows to be avoided for various reasons are The MunstersStar Trek, Lost In Space, Dr. Who, Smurfs, Gummy Bears, My Little Pony, Scooby-Doo, and The Archie Comedy Hour. (125-127)

There is a little said on video games, and much of it convinces me that Phillips doesn’t understand video games well. Still, that is minor so I will save that for other works. The emphasis here is still on cartoons.

In conclusion, Phillips means well, but I think his approach will lead to only helicopter parenting instead of teaching children wise discernment skills so they can make decisions apart from their parents that will be for their true good. The goal of a parent is to work themselves out of a job. This doesn’t mean that they play no role in the lives of their children as I can still talk to my parents regularly and go to them for advice, but I certainly don’t need them to make decisions for me anymore, as it should be.

Christians. Avoid paranoia. The problem is not the medium. The problem is discernment.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Atheist Incredulity and Eyewitness Testimony

How should we handle eyewitness testimony? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Earlier this week I wrote a piece on atheist incredulity. In response, I got asked a question about eyewitness accounts of things like UFOs. Should we believe in those? It’s quite amazing to me that it’s taboo apparently to suggest that skepticism should be held in an unquestioning way.

This isn’t new. Hume had the same skepticism to eyewitness claims of miracles and sought any chance he could to dismiss them. Today, we do have a sort of doublespeak going on in the atheist community. How does that happen?

Go to the Gospels and what are you told often? These Gospels were written decades after the event! It means either the story of the original viewers of the event, otherwise known as the eyewitnesses, were changed, or that the writers never got to speak to any eyewitnesses.

Then, if you go and show that eyewitnesses were involved, well, eyewitness testimony isn’t always reliable. Sometimes you get told that it’s notoriously unreliable. So if the Gospels do not contain eyewitness accounts, we can’t trust them. If they do contain eyewitness accounts, we can’t trust them.

So let’s look at the above topic of UFOs as an example. Should we trust them? In some cases, yes. All a UFO is is an Unidentified Flying Object. Do some people see such objects? Yes. Does that mean an extraterrestrial craft was sighted? No.

Keep in mind also that for those who hold to science, science itself has SETI set up about the question of extraterrestrial intelligence and this is an active question in the scientific community. If we have an active question and we have an eyewitness of an event, should we not at least listen to them?

Note that this is a fine line to walk on. Should eyewitness testimony be believed blindly? No. Should it be dismissed arbitrarily? No.

It’s important to realize that many of us will measure what we see in the world against our own worldview and background. If you are an atheist, you will have a natural tendency to question any claim of a miracle. If you are a theist, you will be skeptical of naturalistic explanations of events you deem to be miraculous.

This is why each of us must rise above our own skepticism. I think atheists, for example, would do a lot better in convincing on evolution if they did not make it be the case that it is to be seen as evolution vs. God. Many theists could be more open to an evolutionary creationism, but if you tell them going the route of what you say is science means abandoning God, they won’t, because God is much more important in their lives.

On the other hand, those of us who are theists could bear to be more skeptical of some miracle claims and many other claims. When we share claims easily as golden proofs that are easily disproven, then we do ourselves a disservice. We should test all the claims we encounter like that.

Note also with eyewitness testimony, I have no problem with taking the character of the person into consideration. Many of us would be skeptical of the words of a stranger. What if it’s a close family member that you know to be trustworthy? Do you just dismiss it?

At this, I want to also answer one other claim about miracles. Would I accept eyewitness testimony for a miracle outside of Christianity? Well, why not? If a miracle happened, then it happened. I can’t give my faith tradition a special exception on the rules of evidence. I think the atheist has more at stake here because if a miracle did happen, well, atheism is in trouble.

Which brings me to a fun little saying of Chesterton on miracles which I will paraphrase. The theist believes in the miracle, rightly or wrongly, because of the evidence. The skeptic disbelieves in the miracle, rightly or wrongly, because he has a dogma against them. Consider a work like Craig Keener’s Miracles. If just one miracle in that book is a bona fide miracle, naturalism has a lot of explaining to do. If everyone of them is fake, theism can still be true and even Christianity. Who has more at stake?

The solution is really simple. Don’t believe blindly, but don’t dismiss blindly either. Try to put aside your own biases every time for the investigation. Follow the evidence where it leads.

In Christ,
Nick Peters